Sarkozy says France did its duty in Ivory Coast

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President Nicolas Sarkzoy said Wednesday that France had done its duty by supporting peace and democracy and in Ivory Coast, where its forces helped overthrow former strongman Laurent Gbagbo.

"He stressed the fact that France had done its duty for democracy and peace in Ivory Coast, a country with which we have deep historical links," government spokesman Francois Baroin said, after Sarkozy met his cabinet.

"French forces acted on a United Nations request and supported peacekeepers within the terms of the mandate fixed by the United Nations Security Council," Baroin told reporters at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

"They acted because it was necessary to protect civilians faced with a constantly worsening security and humanitarian situation."

France is Ivory Coast's former colonial ruler and deployed the 1,700-strong Licorne force to support the United Nations' UNOCI peacekeeping mission there.

French and UNOCI helicopters pounded Gbagbo's Abidjan residence over the weekend in what they said was a bid to stop his fighters using heavy weapons against civilians.

But the air strikes also allowed forces loyal to internationally-recognised President Alassane Ouattara to move in to capture Gbagbo, ending a crisis sparked by the incumbent's refusal to admit defeat in November's election.

Gbagbo's supporters have accused France of mounting a "coup" against their champion, but Paris insists it acted on the basis of a UN request for support and that it was Ouattara's troops who captured Gbagbo.

© 2011 AFP

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